Marta Milans is more than just a mom in Shazam, she’s an inspiration


Heading into 2019, fans of the DCEU have a major movie to look forward to thanks to Shazam. We chat with Marta Milans about her inspiration for Rosa Vasquez, and how this movie differs from other DCEU stories.

In January 2018, news broke that Marta Milans of Killer Women and Devoured had joined the cast of the DCEU’s Shazam!, alongside Zachary Levi. In the movie, the actress takes on the role of Rosa Vasquez, foster mom to a group of children including, Billy Batson, the boy who would be Shazam.

If you are familiar with Milans work, then you know exactly how exciting it was to learn of this casting news. She has proven to be not only a versatile actress, but also someone who can connect on a deeper level, both with the characters she is playing, as well as with the audience.

During my interview with Marta, I learned a lot about the people who have inspired her, as well as how she is an inspiration in her own right. We discussed what went into bringing the character of Rosa to life, as well as inspirations for the role, and what it’s like to have joined a franchise as iconic as the DCEU.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

GRACE FULTON as Mary Bromfiels, IAN CHEN as Eugene Choi, COOPER ANDREWS as Victor Vasquez, JACK DYLAN GRAZER as Freddy Freeman, MARTA MILANS as Rosa Vasquez, ASHER ANGEL as Billy Batson and JOVAN ARMAND as Pedro Pena in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/DC Comics

For starters, tell us about how you came to take on the role of Rosa in Shazam!

When you audition for a movie like this, with a story like this, and you get the opportunity to play such a heartwarming and loving character who is the through line of family unity throughout the film, there’s no way you can say no to that. And then when you get to meet the wonderful children that I got to be a foster mom to, both on and off camera? Most of the time that was another gift, to just be in such a wonderful project and to be able to work and spend so much time with these children that are so wonderful each in their own way, with their different backgrounds and the different ethnicities, and different religions. And to be able to transmit that on camera, that, honest to God, has been my biggest gift so far. You’ll see it because it’s very evident throughout the film.

Of course! Even in the trailer, you can see that there’s a lot of personality.

Yes, and very different ones as well. But that’s what’s so beautiful about my character and my husband’s character in the movie, is that with all of that, it’s welcomed. We bring Billy, who would then become Shazam, into my family, and he is really rebellious and against family. He thinks everyone is going to let you down at some point and we prove him wrong throughout the film. We’re like, “This is a safe space where we all get to be who we are and no one’s judged. No one is pushed to the side. Everyone is loved and embraced.”

You clearly see it from the very first moment where Billy meets all of my kids and we continue to show that throughout the film. I continuously, as my character, bring that out in the open. That’s really the heartwarming message of this film, ultimately. Even if you feel like you don’t belong here or you feel like you’re alone or not wanted or you don’t have the family, you can find your own family, you can make your own family. And that’s what my character does and it really touches your heart.

What was your inspiration for Rosa?

My mom, because not only is she my mom, but she has the biggest heart I’ve ever seen in my life and I have been blessed enough to be her daughter and see how she has completely and utterly dedicated her life to her kids. It’s no coincidence that my siblings and I grew up to be pretty amazing, happy people who get to do what we love, and we get to spread the love.

It’s all about being loved and knowing that you deserve love and giving it back. I think because I’ve experienced that in my childhood and in my life, I don’t have a hard time giving it back and I don’t have a hard time sharing it. So, probably they were able to see that when I auditioned for the role, and I think that is evident in the film.

Before starting to film, I reached out to all the kids. I didn’t know them and they’re actors but also children, and we have so many family scenes, like sitting around the table at dinner or hugging my youngest daughter or making sure that my Hispanic kid would get past his shell because he is pretty shy — all these things. I really wanted to spend time with them.

One thing that I do know for a fact is that you cannot fake familiarity, especially with kids. And I’m a loving person, and just like my mom, we are huggers. We want to sit close to our kids and we want to make them feel loved and we want to sit them on our laps. I thought if I try to do that with a stranger kid that has never met me on the first day on set, that might not go so well.

I organized a bunch of activities. I took them out to escape rooms, and we went to see movies together. I organized pancake and waffle nights in my apartment, for several days.

As you know, my character’s name is Rosa, and within two days, because that is one thing that I kind of am good at is winning kids over in a matter of two to four minutes, generally speaking. So, in the two to four minutes after, I was Mama Rosa for all of them.

What is amazing is that you see that on camera. That’s one thing that I can tell you makes my heart smile.

So, basically, you became a set mom and onscreen mom!

Absolutely, 100 percent. And all the actual moms of my kids are like, “just take him, just keep her, I have two more at home.” I was like, I will gladly do so, I have a farm in Spain with a lot of goats and my family makes goat cheese. So, I’ll bring them all to the farm to milk goats and make cheese!

JOVAN ARMAND as Pedro Pena, IAN CHEN as Eugene Choi, ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam, JACK DYLAN GRAZER as Freddy Freeman, FAITHE HERMAN as Darla Dudley and GRACE FULTON as Mary Bromfiels in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Since Shazam! is based on a comic, were you familiar with the comics or the characters?

I was not at all at the beginning. In fact when I auditioned for the role, with all the secrecy involved, I wasn’t even quite sure which character I was auditioning for, and it wasn’t until I got the job that I was shown the actual comic book character and drawing.

I’ve become ever so slightly better versed in the comic world. But I was like, “Oh man, I kind of looked like her.” And they were like, “Yeah, you are her, you’re pretty much the same person.”

We also got to read the comics and I got even more excited about the whole thing. I realized this is not just any character in a superhero movie. She is the piece that brings all the kids together. She is the part that gives hope.

You have all the fun and you have all the superhero things that all the kids are great at. So is Zach obviously, playing Shazam, but I have yet to see a movie, a superhero movie that encompassed that and brought that into the center of attention as well. I just got lucky enough to be in the one that actually does that.

Basically, it is a superhero movie with you as another version of a hero.

People ask if I’m in a superhero movie, am I playing a superhero. And I’m like no, I’m something much better. I am the mother of all the superheroes.

What’s amazing as well is they do show all the moments when we are all at home, being a family, allowing all of this space for all these kids, giving them a home and making them feel like they are part of the family, but also allowing them to voice themselves, and have their own personalities.

They are empowered to be who they are… I think it sets such an example for all the kids from all over the world, and backgrounds and religions, and whatever it is that they will identify themselves. They will be like, “oh there are people out there that will allow me to be who I am, and to feel loved for who I am regardless of where I cam from.”

It is beautifully written in the film and I hope it transmits to the audience.

What was it like working with Zachary Levi and knowing that technically you’re his mother in this film?

There was a little joking around about that. With him saying, “Hey, I’m your son.” Not quite buddy, not quite. But, he’s great.

He was born to play this role. He literally is a 14-year-old kid, in a superhero body. That’s why the dynamic works so beautifully with Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Freddy, who is an absolute joy to watch. Again, getting to be the mom of all those little kids that, you know, their minds run a mile a minute and to manage all of that was quite a challenge.

ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam and JACK DYLAN GRAZER as Freddy Freeman in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

How would you compare working on Shazam! to some of your past projects like Killer Women and Devoured?

The whole set up and your trailers, everything is so big because that’s Hollywood, and that’s show business. But at the end of the day when it comes to the role, and walking on set, being the artist that you are, and playing the role that you’re given — the moment that camera rolls, it’s the same thing.

You have to be present, you have to be prepared, you have to love what you do, you have to love the role that you are given to perform and whatever language it is that I am acting in or whatever country I’m working in. In the end, the work is the work. You can never forget that, you cannot get lost in, “Oh, this is so fancy and a $200 million movie.”

We’re on every billboard. That’s amazing! But you still hunker down and continue to keep your eye on the ball and work on your craft, and really focus on that — all of this stuff is extra glitter.

How does it feel to be part of such a major cinematic universe?

I have had a lot of pinch me moments. I remember the first moment I had my wardrobe fitting in Pinewood Studios, and saw the poster and this is where Hitchcock was filmed in London, and Psycho and it is one of those things where you don’t know if you want to cry or throw up at the same time because it is so equally exciting.

There was a moment towards the end of the film where Zach is flying around, and there are all of these villains and all these things are happening, and while I had my agent sitting with me and one of my kids on my lap, I sat there for a second, and I was like, hold on. I’m sitting in the screening room at Warner Brothers Studios, watching a superhero movie that I’m in. And I literally had to get up and go cry in the bathroom for a second and pretend that I had allergies.

It’s a blessing. I am very blessed to have hardworking guardian angels around me working full time, and I hope they don’t get tired and they continue to work, because it’s literally a dream come true.

Do you have any funny stories from the set or a favorite moment when you were on set?

There are so many. I remember one from off set, on one of the days we decided to do an activity, to go to an escape room that they have in Toronto. They have this amazing castle with amazing escape room adventures and one of them was you get locked into this like 1920s sort of dungeon and you have two hours to get out of it.

So, of course, I was in with all my kids, and some of their parents and my husband in the movie, Cooper Andrews, who is the best, and there were all of these other people. It’s just people there doing the same activity at the same time. So no one, I would imagine, knew that we were all a family because we had just started filming and people didn’t know who we were. And we were the ones that got out first.

Literally we got out because of all my kids, they were all like, “Mama Rosa I found this clue, and Mama Rosa I have this here.” So my name was left and right and all these people are like, “Who is this Mama Rosa and why does she have so many kids? Actually, she is kind of young!”

It was just hilarious. We had several of those moments around town as a pack of little wolves. I imagine when the movie comes out, it will be funnier to see us all together because we will be much more recognizable.

Now, obviously, you love your character, but if there was any other character in the entire DCEU that you could play, who would it be?

I love Wonder Woman and I love Antiope, played by Robin Wright, and also Connie Nielson, who played her sister Hippolyta, if I could be anywhere near those women. Just because I admire them so much, and think they are bad ass and I would just love to fight with a spear or whatever and wear those fancy outfits. I don’t care which one, but any one of them I would be happy with.

So basically, as long as you can be a warrior goddess, you would be good?

Yes, if I could be a Greek warrior goddess I don’t think I would have much problem with life. That and keep Mama Rosa, because don’t take that away from me.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (And you can still be Mama Rosa with this power.)

I can still be Mama Rosa, then it would be to heal.

Who is a woman, either fictional or nonfictional, who you looked up to growing up and why?

I was a tennis player when I was growing up and I don’t know if you remember Steffi Graf. I was obsessed with her, her blonde hair (because obviously I’m a brunette), and her legs… and I just wanted to be her. I wanted to play tennis like her. Then she ended up marrying Andre Agassi and having a wonderful super tennis family. And it’s kind of like, you did it girl!

Besides that, going back to my goddesses, Wonder Woman. Of course, you want to be Wonder Woman. What girl doesn’t want to be Wonder Woman?

It’s funny because it’s not until when the movie came out, which is actually a fantastic movie, but wow, the empowerment of that for girls. Same thing with, for example, Moana, with the message for little girls that you can do it on your own, you can fight for a better world. You don’t need the prince to come and kiss you to break the sleeping spell. It’s amazing to see that better portrayed, both in superhero movies and new Disney movies for example.

It makes me proud of what we have achieved as women, that we’re able now to share this with our daughters and kids as well, in this day and age.

Related Story. Zachary Levi shares his excitement over becoming a superhero in Shazam!. light

Shazam! hits theaters on April 5.